AP

Stars end Hurricanes’ franchise-record point streak, deliver hit to slim playoff chances

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) With no playoffs to look forward to, the Dallas Stars are stuck being spoilers. They just wish they didn’t have so much experience in that role.

Jason Spezza scored, Kari Lehtonen earned his third shutout of the season and Dallas beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 on Saturday night.

John Klingberg and Devin Shore added empty-netters and Lehtonen stopped 25 shots in his second shutout in six starts to help the Stars snap a two-game losing streak and deal a serious blow to the Hurricanes’ already slim playoff chances.

“We knew how hungry they were,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “The only thing we can do is be spoilers, take some pride in how we play.”

Cam Ward stopped 21 shots for Carolina, which fell six points behind Boston for the East’s final playoff spot with six games left. Both the Hurricanes and Islanders also are two points behind Tampa Bay.

The Stars, who earned a Western Conference-best 109 points last year, will miss the postseason for the seventh time in nine years. After putting Carolina in an even tougher spot, they’ll now try to make things difficult for the Lightning on Sunday night.

The Hurricanes failed to earn a point for the first time since losing at Colorado on March 7 – a club-record stretch of 13 straight games with either a win or an overtime loss. They fell to 2-4-2 against the bottom four teams in the Western Conference: Dallas, Vancouver, Arizona and Colorado.

“It wasn’t easy to take, obviously,” forward Jordan Staal said. “We’ve played some great hockey and given ourselves a chance. … We thought we could stick with it and kind of find a way. We had a few chances. Tonight, it didn’t go in, and it hurts. It’s been a fun ride.”

Dallas scored more than two goals for just the third time since March 6 in earning just its 12th road win of the season. Only Arizona (11) and Colorado (nine) have fewer among teams in the West – though both of them, like the Stars, earned victories in Raleigh.

“You just try to win games, and obviously, if we win two games on the road now, it doesn’t make up for the losses we had earlier in the year,” Spezza said. “All you can do is play the ones ahead of you.”

Carolina, which scored an NHL-best 54 goals in March, was shut out for the first time since a 4-0 loss to Toronto on Feb. 19.

“I thought everything was a grind,” coach Bill Peters said. “Everything seemed hard. Everything was a split-second late or in the feet offensively. I didn’t think we executed as well as we have here recently, but a lot of (that) was due to the fact that they were above us and they had puck pressure.”

Spezza scored the game’s first goal 4:46 into the second with a wrist shot from the circle that beat Ward high to his glove side – a score that was nearly identical to Jack Johnson‘s goal two nights earlier. That gave Spezza 19 career goals against the Hurricanes.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes missed a prime chance earlier in the game and it might have set the tone for the rest of the game.

Dallas – and its league-worst penalty-kill unit – drew a minor midway through the first, but the Hurricanes came up empty on a 3-on-nobody rush after a pass misfired near Lehtonen after they caught the Stars on a line change.

“I think we might have gone to the bench a little slowly there,” Lehtonen said. “I was expecting him to pass, and it’s good that he did. … I thought 2-and-0, 3-and-0, there was going to be some passing, and they did, so I was just getting ready for that. I think it just bounced a little bit, and that was that.”

These 2017 NHL Draft picks lacked hype … but not swagger

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The interview process for draft prospects must be a real beating. Then again, it’s also an opportunity for hopefuls to push back.

In the case of two smaller prospects, it meant providing some swagger in their answers, possibly impressing their new teams. If nothing else, Kailer Yamamoto and Michael DiPietro generated some refreshingly confident quotes.

One would assume that the Edmonton Oilers picked Yamamoto with the 22nd choice for more than just a great answer alone … but still.

Nice, right?

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek related a similar story about DiPietro, who the Vancouver Canucks nabbed with the 64th pick.

Funny story: When one team at the NHL told him “We don’t think you can play in the NHL with our team, you’re too small” at the combine, he fired back with “well, I guess you have a problem with winning, then.” How do you not like that?

If nothing else, those two aren’t shy.

As a bonus story, check out the bumpy path Will Reilly – aka the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2017 NHL Draft – took to being chosen last overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, via Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy. From the sound of things, there are worse feelings than going 217th.

The 2017 NHL Draft may have been “pumped down” from a hype perspective, yet it sounds like many of these prospects at least bring some moxie to the table.

Kings, Golden Knights labeled 2017 NHL Draft winners; Bruins, not so much

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It’s nearly certain that we won’t be able to determine the “winners and losers” of the 2017 NHL Draft until, say, 2022. If not later.

Still, what fun is that?

Quite a few outlets pegged some winners and losers, though sometimes the choices were more about themes like nations or player types than specific teams.

For example: Puck Daddy gives a thumbs down to the “green room” experiment.

Let’s take a look at some of the consensus picks.

Winners

Vegas Golden Knights

GM George McPhee was dealt a bad hand when it comes to the lottery draft, so he instead made his own luck. And then he selected three players who could improve this team going forward.

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek especially liked the last two of their three first-rounders (Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom), viewing Cody Glass as more of a no-brainer. Plenty of others were on board.

Los Angeles Kings

Gabe Vilardi fell to Los Angeles, whether it was because of shaky skating or some other reason. That potential steal (and some other shrewd moves) impressed the Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy, who assembled draft profiles for PHT.

Again, Vilardi’s loss was considered the Kings’ gain, as slower skaters were considered losers by the likes of Post Media’s Michael Traikos.

Philadelphia Flyers

Boy, Ron Hextall is good at this thing, isn’t he? Philly drew high marks even beyond the layup of landing Nolan Patrick. The main area of disagreement revolved around the Brayden Schenn trade, though plenty came out on Hextall’s side there, too.

Arizona Coyotes

Boy, that negative press didn’t last long, did it? Between landing Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta in trades and savvy picks, they were a popular choice.

Themes

Smaller players, Sweden, and Finland drew semi-serious mentions as “winners.”

Losers

Boston Bruins

The perception is that they played it too safe.

Colorado Avalanche, for now?

OK, this was more about draft weekend than picks, but people are criticizing Joe Sakic for standing pat. That could change, but the negative sentiment is there.

Detroit Red Wings

Another common choice. Some believe that their draft was the worst of them all, which isn’t great considering the declining opinion of GM Ken Holland overall.

New York Rangers

Lias Andersson was viewed as a reach by plenty, and his connection to the trade to Arizona might intensify the scrutiny.

Themes

Not a great draft for Russian-born players and/or guys who don’t skate quite swiftly.

***

So, those are some of the near-consensus choices for winners and losers, via the brave souls who made rapid reactions to the 2017 NHL Draft.

Ducks ink D Holzer to two-year deal reportedly worth $1.8M

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As the dust settled on the expansion draft, the Anaheim Ducks’ defense is coming into focus.

Sunday continued that pattern; the Ducks signed Korbinian Holzer to a two-year contract worth $1.8 million, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

You can break down the Ducks defense as more expensive players (Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Kevin Bieksa) and cheaper ones (Holzer, Brandon Montour, and Josh Manson).

Only Vatanen, Lindholm and Holzer see contracts that go beyond 2017-18 – at least without an extension yet for the likes of Fowler and Manson – so Holzer provides a little bit of certainty.

Is the $900K a minor overpay, though? Holzer played in 32 games for the Ducks this season after appearing in 29 in 2015-16. His impact has been pretty minimal, generating seven points while averaging 13:31 in ice time per contest (down from 14:45 the previous season).

Granted he may get more opportunities to show what he’s capable of if the Ducks lose another piece. Then again, at 29, the Ducks likely know what they have.

2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class to be named Monday; Selanne + who?

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The 2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class is expected to be announced on Monday, and every indication is that Teemu Selanne will be on the list. Beyond that, well, there are a lot of question marks.

NHL.com notes that there’s at least a possibility that Selanne will be the only NHL name to be part of this class, which would mark a first since 2010 (when Dino Ciccarelli was the lone addition).

It’s a nice way to continue what’s been a buffet for hockey fans: the 2017 Stanley Cup Final’s conclusion, the expansion draft and then the 2017 NHL Draft. The HHOF announcements are a nice appetizer before free agency gets, well, frenzied?

“The Finnish Flash” was also an obvious top choice in last year’s poll to see who should be in the class.

Now, that doesn’t mean he is the only interesting name.

For one thing, Daniel Alfredsson will be eligible for the first time, much like Selanne. “Alf” falls in the “Maybe” category with some interesting, debatable other options: Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Jeremy Roenick, Paul Kariya, Chris Osgood, and more.

The 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame class included Eric Lindros, Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov, and Pat Quinn.